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One Year Later, Remembering Sandy

Loss and compassion are part of the story of Superstorm Sandy in Huntington.

Superstorm Sandy struck the area a year ago Tuesday and though the cleanup is mostly complete, little reminders live on.

The look of some neighborhoods changed as old trees that had provided shade and a landmark were suddenly gone. Homes took on a new look as they rebuilt after a tree had crashed through the sides of the building.

Over the year, as repairs went on, affected homes went from damage, to tarps to new insulation, wood or shingles. And though the most of the debris is gone, some tree stumps are still obvious.

And on at least one street, a chunk of limb, left from the removal of a storm-damaged tree, remains ensnared in utility wires.

Water surges flooded parts of Halesite, closing some streets and sending Halesite Fire Department volunteers into neighborhoods to lend a helping hand. A man trying to shepherd his young family to safety was struck and killed by a falling tree.

Walt Whitman High School had to reconstruct its roof after the winds stripped away chunks of material covering 16 classrooms, some locker areas and a wrestling room.

Half Hollow Hills schools remained closed for eight days because of the the superstorm and then a cold, snowy nor'easter made roads too hazardous for bus transportation.

Thousands of residents were without power, some for a day; others for two weeks because of the double punch of storms. Still others regained power only to lose it to the second storm. Many people ended up standing or waiting in their cars to buy gas at service stations that had limited supplies or ability to operate their pumps because of the lack of power.

Firefighters, police and rescue squad volunteers were kept busy as residents needed help. 
The Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund and the Dix Hills Fire Department teamed up to help collect much needed items for volunteer fire departments in Breezy Point.

"You can't underestimate the dedication of Huntington's volunteers," said Martha Brenner, chief of the Huntington Community First Aid Squad. "With help from Huntington and Huntington Manor fire departments we answered 29 calls during the 24 hour height of Super Storm Sandy.  Lessons were certainly learned but what we learned most is that our volunteers stand ready to support our community when disaster strikes."

While there was some flooding around the Town of Huntington, most of the damage resulted from wind, William Naughton, Huntington's highway superintendent, said. "We have the highest point on Long Island," with Jayne's Hill in West Hills, he said. "With the leaves still on the trees, that just knocked the trees over. The South Shore had the flooding, and we  feel sorry for them. We were much more fortunate than some people on the South Shore and in parts of New York City and New Jersey."

The department ended up hauling away 530,000 cubic yards, or more than 19,000 truckloads, of debris.

And volunteers could be found almost everywhere.

St. Hugh of Lincoln Church found temporary lodging for many families who needed help, even putting up one family in the rectory.

The American Red Cross set up a shelter at Whitman High School, the YMCA offered hot showers and recharging of electrical devices, and religious institutions around town offered warm food and a space to rest.

Several Whitman students, with classes closed, turned up at the school anyway, offering to help clean up.

Whitman principal Kathleen Acker told students Monday that after the storm struck, "The next several weeks were surreal as we struggled together as a community dealing with a catastrophic situation beyond our belief.  Friends, family and community members instantly sprang into action to help and support each other.  As the weeks moved along we were faced with additional emotional challenges, and you continued to come together to support each other.  The compassion that Whitman students and staff continuously demonstrate never ceases to amaze me and fill me with gratitude and pride."

But not everyone in town behaved.

Some residents of West Hills saw a man they mistook for a utility worker scouting the area before the storm. Hours later, they realized several generators had been stolen. Suffolk County police said the Camp-Site Sport Shop in Huntington Station was broken into Oct. 30 and eight rifles were taken. 

As things gradually got back to normal, so did people's behavior. A handful of people complained on social media about a mall not reopening fast enough. Less than 30 minutes after removal of safety barrels at the intersection of Route 110 and Jericho Turnpike, Suffolk County police recorded the corner's first fender-bender since the storm hit.

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